Fire-Fighting Robots

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I’m feeling a little like I’ve been lady negativity on the robot front for the last couple weeks. So in the interest of being an objective robot aficionado, I’m taking up the other side. And in doing so I’ve done some research on firefighting machines, because everybody loves a firefighter. And granted their christmas calendar would be a devastating disappointment compared, there are some significantly less superficial merits to sending robots into infernos instead of beefy dudes. Sigh. 

Stop daydreaming about the Christmas calendar and concentrate. 

I may be projecting. 

Aaand we’re back. 

In Feb the US Navy revealed a working prototype of an onboard firefighting robot. See the big deal about fires on ships is that they’re a tad more drastic than fires on land. One can’t just go “oh yeah this house is a lost cause, let’s get everybody out and minimise damage to the neighbours.” Because when you’re at sea it’s entirely possible that you don’t have any neighbours, or your closest neighbour is Cannibal Island. And let me tell you Cannibal Island is not an ironic name for an island with no cannibals. It’s full of them. Well not full… because a lot of them got eaten. But there are a few.. like enough that you don’t wanna be there. Honestly, any more cannibals than zero cannibals is kinda too many cannibals. And the Navy OBVIOUSLY realised this. So they turned some knobs and did some science and built SAFFiR. These humanoid machines have a built in stereo infrared camera, laser range finder and gas sensor that allow them to detect and eliminate the smokey threat. They can also walk and balance aboard a ship on rocky waters without falling headlong into the blaze. Impressive considering I trip just walking down the street. 

Point being, SAFFiR has the potential to save you from cannibals and is therefore a categorical winner. 

THE TECHNOLOGICAL SINGULARITY

Right I think it’s time to talk about the singularity. 

Just make sure you’ve got a firm hold on your hats because shit is getting REAL. 

The rate of technological advancement is increasing, exponentially. For those of you as mathematically inept as I am, just look at the pretty picture. See how the long goes *jooooooooop* …that’s the point in question.

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The problem with all of us plebs is that we are thinking linear, we see the future of things moving at the same pace as they have done… a nice comfortable gait. It’s not going to stay that way. Kurzweil calls it the law of accelerating returns, which is a nicer way of saying watch your fucking back pal because it’s alllll coming for you. All of it. On its way. In a hurry. 

So the current thinking in AI is to develop a computer that can learn, and motivate it’s own advancement. And once that can be done, theoretically, the machine would be able to set itself on a course to increase its own intelligence. Following that, our comparatively gnat-like brains lose all control over their progression. We are sidelined while these super-intelligent beings, now entirely autonomous, just do their super-intelligent thing. 

Here’s where it gets crazy. All these people, these genius people that are talking about it, what they’re saying is after this goes down they just don’t fucking know. Could be that the machines decide that humans, being what we are (life sucking leaches with a tendency for the depraved) are a threat to their environment. And maybe they just go about exterminating us. Could be that our new overlords are wonderfully benevolent and they do the Johnny Depp-in-that-AI-movie-thing, fix the environment, sort the hunger and the disease and the rest of it and everyone’s lives are infinitely improved. There may even be a middle ground between those two highly melodramatic scenarios. 

The kicker, really, is that they’re all just shrugging their shoulders going iiiunoooo. While we hurtle towards this tipping point where things become entirely out of our control and everyone’s just like iiunnnnooooo….. Have your eyes bugged out of your head yet? Push em back in then… and hear this. Kurzweil predicts that this will happen around 2040. TWENTY FUCKING FORTY. And he rarely gets it wrong. But some are saying earlier. I’ll hold the vomit bucket while you lose your lunch. 

Welcome to the future. 

Sleep well never. 

Autonomous Cars … At least it starts with those

Ok so the assignment is over. And I promise I’ll stop soon. But this whole thing has become oddly addictive. And everyone knows they call it cold turkey because a carcass becomes cold after death. Everyone knows that. 

So while I’m supposed to be writing essays for other assignments I’ve been thinking about autonomous cars. The people that know things say that they’ll drastically reduce the incidence of traffic accidents. That is, once they stop doing this…

And they will stop. Because Elon “saviour of mankind” Musk is on the case. And once these clever chaps get it right, car accidents will become a thing of the past. Good thing, yes. But when you extrapolate out from that you realise that what will eventuate is a ban on non-autonomous vehicles. That sits slightly less well. 

All this to say I realise it’s irrational. I know that of all people I should definitely not be in control of a vehicle. It would be better for everyone if I wasn’t performing solo rock concerts while manning a car. It’d be better for everyone if I wasn’t performing solo rock concerts full stop, but that’s just out of the question. That elation that comes from flying down a highway, it’s probably just a social construct. It’s probably just because we’ve watched too many road movies. And by the time the ban is in place it’ll be a younger generation dealing with the consequences. And maybe for them that feeling wouldn’t be the same. 

But here’s another thing I’ve been thinking. And let me preface this by saying I’m not sure whether I actually think it or if its just a thing I’m thinking about, if that makes sense. My question is this, are we moving towards a moment in time where everything is too safe? Isn’t there something significant about getting in a car and just at the back of your mind being aware that you could theoretically die before you reach your destination? Maybe that little voice in the back of your head that says that.. maybe it wakes you up. Stops you from becoming apathetic. In my mind there’s a sort of vertical line. And that line represents high chance of death. And maybe the closer you get to the line the more you’re aware of your life. I may disagree with myself completely in an hour because, like I said, i don’t know if I really think any of what I’m thinking. And I was voicing a case for immortality just last week so… very little consistency here. 

It’s in a similar vein to what Carlin says about being offended, about political correctness. We’re all so careful and so concerned about saying the right thing that a lot of our interactions have become vacant, meaningless. I mean, has the incidence of bullying in the playground increased or are kids just so coddled these days that they can’t deal with it anymore? That might be harsh. I think I’m just in a mood. I’m not sure how we got here. 

I really hope the prof is done going through this site because this has just gone way off the rails. 

Do Killer Robots Seem Like A Great Idea To ANYONE??!

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This week in robot news, talk has turned to killer robots.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots have been voicing their concern for years. And they’re finding that the UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons seem to be doing little more than “having talks” on the issue. And somewhat like coming to a film/media student for information on robotics/economics, that really doesn’t seem like it’s gonna help. Even if she’s the only one that finds a way to relate Monty Python to pertinent issues.

But I digress. Here’s an idea for an action that might get them started; put a stop to the military’s development of machines that can autonomously track and kill people. Because those sound absolutely wretched. The solution to men and women dying in wars is not sending machines in their place, it’s chilling out on the war.

The whole situation is more complicated.. I realise that. But here’s the thing, when the very thought of something makes your skin crawl and reminds you of every dystopian future you’ve ever nightmared about MAYBE DON’T BRING IT TO LIFE.

Sexbots over deathbots. That should be our chant when we rally.

Shayni Notelovitz

The Human-Machine Connection

Initial thoughts, this thing is goddam adorable. And I think possibly all my problems could be solved if it would just tell me it loved me. But after the momentary hysteria settled I began to question the idea at the heart of this strange commercial. The notion that a human might have an emotional connection to a machine.

With regard to jobs, we hear a lot about the idea of collaborating with robots, and that this will be the future of our workforce. But could we collaborate in the same way with a robotic mind? The camaraderie and collective motivation that exists in many workplaces seem like they might be the very ingredients that have brought about some of the greatest human creations to date. Discovery, design, art, invention… that cinematic moment we all know so well where the group bands together and achieves something incredible, and it gives you goosebumps and makes you want to become a Mighty Duck. How would this work if our co-conspirators were non-human?

And on another level.. how much would it change the very nature of the human experience if we were no longer the builders of our world? If everything was outsourced… wouldn’t there be a sense that we were no longer the designers of our space, even if the robots weren’t out of our control. Isn’t there something to humans being responsible for our own environment?

Shayni Notelovitz

The Multitalented Machines are Rising

Google’s deep learning software teaches itself how to play computer games without prior knowledge of the controls, the goals or the methods of game play. You’re sure machines will never be intelligent enough to replace you? Think again.

This crazy-ass video is of the Hubo Humanoid Robot, winner of the 2015 Darpa robotics challenge. The robots are given goals. They have to then make decisions about how to best accomplish each one. It’s incredible to perceive the scope of tasks that this guy can handle, from driving a car to turning a valve to utilising a yellow power tool to slice through a wall.

The win proved a bit of a controversy because Hubo elected to push the obstacles aside instead of clambering over the rubble. It has been suggested that this action was cheating, but what’s more mind-blowing is a robotic mind having the capacity to seek out a loop hole, to bend rules in order to find the simplest solution. Ruminate on that for a second or two.

Shayni Notelovitz

Basic Income

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Steve Hughes is not only a classy, classy man but also an economic trailblazer.. read on as I prove it with a level of finesse only previously achieved by Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina. There is no need to follow that link it is completely irrelevant.

I touched briefly on the idea of allocating a universal basic income. This seems to be the only viable solution if we’re all pushed out of the workforce. It also sounds like a really good bloody time. There is enough wealth to go around, we know this. It’s just about distributing it in sensible ways. And having a little faith in ourselves to live meaningful lives even if we don’t have a 9 to 5 from which to gage our entire identity. You are more than your LinkedIn profile. I believe in you. Drum circle on the beach, WHO IS IN?

This is a recent Huffington Post article which will prove that I’m not talking nonsense.

In case you’re too lazy to click the link I am copying in one of the author’s more pertinent insights because I’m just such a sweetheart.

“By redirecting that money pooling at the top doing comparatively very little, accumulating in ever increasing amounts through continual redistribution upwards from the bottom and the middle of the income spectrum, and recirculating that clotted money back down to the bottom and middle, this would actually expand the entire economy while making it more sustainable and more inclusive. This is how the body works. This is how engines work. This is how systems work.”

Here’s another piece regarding robotic shenanigans that you should at the very least scan.

Shayni Notelovitz

Humans Need Not Apply

The first to be hit; everyone that moves goods/people…

“The transport industry in the US employs about 3 million people, extrapolating world wide thats about 70 million jobs at a a minimum.” These jobs are already all but done for because autos are ALREADY BETTER DRIVERS THAN US. By all accounts they don’t feel the need to just-really-quickly-check if they received any Instagram likes while at the wheel. And probably won’t insist on opening the windows so everyone else can enjoy their Techno Jams of Summer playlist. This may be beside the point.

While it may be further away, it is also significant to note that your pearly white collar will not protect you from the bots for long.

“The cutting edge of programming isn’t super smart programmers writing bots, its super smart programmers writing bots that teach themselves to do things the programmers could never teach them to do.” This notion is exactly what governs the principles of the predicted intelligence explosion which will foreshadow the singularity. And it is exactly why we are all struggling to imagine that the clunky robots and machines we see now will soon learn and imagine and create in ways we never could. Once this shit hits it’s going to snowball rapid-fire. The current system CANNOT EXIST under these conditions.

Watch this film, it actually is going to fry your brain.

Shayni Notelovitz

An Introductory Rant

Humans are quickly becoming redundant. The rise in automation will see an unprecedented level of unemployment. From truck drivers to doctors, no one’s job is safe. And with the exponential rates of development in technology, the influx of intelligent machines is going to hit us far sooner than we care to imagine.

What I’m suggesting is not a revolt against technological advancement. Would there not be more merit in coming to terms with the not so awful idea that there is no need for every person to have employment? When Kodak and it’s 145,000 employees were usurped by Instagram’s 13 there was a major lesson to be learned.

See 

Very clever man.

The way to make such a system economically viable for the rest of us; a basic income. Governments heavily tax corporate entities, try very, very hard to resist their corrupt inclinations (robots can no doubt assist in policing this) and distribute the money amongst the entire population as a sort of unconditional welfare payment. The idea has already been seriously considered, with Switzerland’s government coming very close to passing a law for basic income. And you know if the Swiss are thinking about it it’s probably a good idea.

While the proposition obviously requires a change in policy it also requires, more fundamentally a change in mindset. Perhaps the purpose of life is closer to achieving a state of being in which robots are in fact doing all the work and society is allowed the time and the means with which to do whatever else it is they might, conquering the rubix cube, reading Plato, mastering the art of Tai Chi, for instance.

There seems to be a persisting idea that the purpose of our homogenised lives is to work, consistently, for an income with which we can purchase all the things we do or, more likely, don’t need. Just because this is the way things have always been does not necessarily mean it needs to continue.

Buckminster Fuller said it best about 40 years ago:

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest… We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Shayni Notelovitz